With concerns over today’s referendum and its potential impact on Venezuela’s stability, Venezuelans residing in Trinidad are diligently shipping as many goods as they can back to their families in preparation for Christmas.
Co-ordinator of the La Romain Migrant Support Group Angie Ramnarine told Guardian Media that most Venezuelans are disinterested in voting in today’s referendum which deals with Venezuela’s claim on the Essequibo, a 160,000 square kilometre territory.
Guyana constitutes more than two-thirds of the disputed territory. The International Court of Justice on Friday ordered Venezuela not to take any action to alter Guyana’s control over the disputed territory. However, Venezuelans are still heading to the polls today to vote in the referendum on the issue.
Ramnarine said the Venezuelans residing in Trinidad have been closely monitoring the developments and have expressed worry that any potential move to claim the land will further set Venezuela back.
“They understand Venezuela’s instability, and this referendum only adds to it. Those in Venezuela are being pressured and coerced to garner support for the referendum, but those in Trinidad are disinterested in voting,” Ramnarine added.
She mentioned how Venezuelans are taking on extra jobs like landscaping, cleaning houses, painting, and construction to supplement their incomes.
“Especially during Christmas, people are taking on multiple jobs to send things back home. This time of year holds great sentimentality for them as they miss their families,” she said.
Ramnarine said there was some relief stemming from recent comments by Venezuelan Parliament member Jacobo Torres who assured last week that Venezuela will maintain peace with neighbouring Guyana despite the ongoing dispute.
Speaking during a panel discussion held by the Cipriani Labour College, Torres warned the global public not to allow the United States (US) to provoke war in the Caribbean and Latin American region. He declared that the US only cared about the disputed territory because substantial oil reserves were found there, as he claimed US reserves were dwindling.
In the midst of this, Venezuelan national Juan Barilles expressed concern for his family in Venezuela. Despite the difficulties in Trinidad, he expressed gratitude for the jobs he secured leading up to Christmas.
The referendum poses five questions to Venezuelan voters.
This includes whether or not to reject the 1899 decision, whether Caracas should reject ICJ jurisdiction over the dispute, and whether or not to grant Venezuelan citizenship to the people–currently Guyanese–of a new “Guyana Esequiba State”.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has been vociferously encouraging voters to approve the referendum, in what political analysts said was a test of government support before the planned 2024 presidential elections.